Singapore captain Hariss Harun admits that the national side "didn't show up" in their humiliating home defeat against Chinese Taipei and will need to improve dramatically in Tuesday night's friendly against Argentina.
The Singaporeans fell to a 2-1 loss to Chinese Taipei at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night, despite Hariss giving them a sixth-minute lead through a pinpoint header.
Now they must lift themselves off the floor to put in a respectable display at the National Stadium against No. 2-ranked Argentina, who will be missing key attackers Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain.
"One of the reasons I felt so bad after the game was that more than 5,000 fans showed up and we didn't," Hariss told The New Paper. "I believe we can still do it, but we have to believe and work together."
Singapore have only one point from their opening two Asian Cup Group E qualifiers. They will have four more matches to try to salvage their campaign to earn a place at the regional showcase in United Arab Emirates in 2019.
"Holding Bahrain to a draw [in our first qualifier] is a good result but, when we play Taiwan at home, we can't be struggling for goals and going for a draw," Hariss said.
Hariss defended criticism of Singapore's conservative and direct approach that saw long balls aimed at makeshift striker Safuwan Baharudin. The former A-League defender was filling in for regular front man Khairul Amri, who has appendicitis.
Some observers believe that head coach V. Sundramoorthy should have been more adventurous by giving winger Faris Ramli and substitute Khairal Nizam the kind of free reign they've enjoyed at Home United in the S.League. Sundramoorthy denied that Singapore had taken the game lightly against a side ranked three spots below them by FIFA.
"Safuwan had scored in six consecutive league games for PDRM FA before the international break and, with Amri out, it's normal for Sundram to put his hopes on him that he can carry over his good form," Hariss said.
"We know his strengths and we have to help him. Against Taiwan, he didn't get that support from us. Collectively, we didn't take the risk to put more bodies in the box, and that isolated Safuwan.
"I believe Faris and Nizam play with more freedom at Home United but, from a tactical point of view, international football is on a different level and has different demands.
"We need to execute what the coach wants."
Left-winger Faris has scored 11 times and provided 12 assists for Home United this season, but failed to make an impact in Saturday's match. Khairul Nizam, who has yet to score in 19 international appearances, missed a gilt-edged opportunity in the last five minutes from close range that would have earned Singapore a draw.
Another attacker Shahril Ishak, who is still officially Singapore captain, was in the squad. But he again failed to see game time, despite improved form since his return to the S.League with Warriors FC from Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim II.